Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC is proud to announce our 2018 nominee for Big Brother of the Year: Mark Grush of BBBS Henderson County! Congrats Mark!
Each year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America affiliates nominate local mentors to be considered for the Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year award for their state. A host of criteria are considered in the selection process, including how effective the relationship has been in assisting the child to achieve positive outcomes in the face of obstacles. Each chairperson for each state additionally looks at each “Little” brother or sister’s improvement in social emotional wellness such as self confidence and relationships with peers and family as well as how invested and active the nominated “Big” volunteer has been in engaging their community in the mission and work of BBBS.
Mark Grush’s nomination will now go on to be reviewed by the state board that is also reviewing all nominees for North Carolina BBBS affiliates, and they will send their finalists on to be reviewed nationally next month!
“Mark and Estuardo have learned a lot from each other. Mark has acted like a father, uncle, teacher, friend, and brother to Estuardo,” writes BBBS Program Coordinator Shelbie English in her nomination essay. “Mark has attended parent-teacher conferences, was an advocate to get Estuardo into a special school, and has helped tutor him in the past. Mark puts a lot of value on Estuardo’s education and pushes him to be successful. Much of their time together has been happy and easy, other times it has been challenging.”
Now matched for almost 8 years, Mark relationship with his Little has required effort and commitment as he has see his Little Brother through a lot of growth, personal changes, and both high points and having some brushes with trouble. Being raised by a single mother in poverty and without a father or successful male role model in his life, Estuardo was certainly a young boy who was facing adversity before he met mark. But, he testifies that having Mark in his life has been a huge support for him. When asked to describe what he’s learned from his brother, Estuardo’s replied:
“I’ve learned to be mature, not to be wild. To think before I act in situations at school that come up. He’s also taught me to always tell the truth and to be respectful.”
Estuardo acknowledges that it takes a special kind of person to volunteer to become a Big Brother, but still, he says that he thinks he would like to give back in the same way someday, “I hope I can be that good of a person when I grow up,” he says.
Estuardo’s mother says that it’s because of her son’s time with Mark that he has learned how to be a man and how to grow up. “Mark has been like a right-hand to me—an extension of myself. Mark has helped fill a role that was not there. He’s been like a father and a friend to my son.”
At the interview with Maria were both Mark and Estuardo—with Estuardo serving as translator. Reflecting on the gathering, Program Coordinator Shelbie English wrote:
“While we talked, Maria gave short answers. The language barrier was something that we were both struggling with. However, this conversation went beyond speaking, because there are some things you just can’t express in words. After our interview we went outside to take pictures. While I clicked away with my phone, I noticed Maria doing the same.Both Estuardo and Mark were wearing button-downs, Estuardo at his mothers behest—she had wanted him to look his best.
As we stood in the winter sunlight, I could see Maria’s pride. Not only for her son, but for the man who had volunteered to come into their lives, and help. My final question of the interview was to ask Maria what it would be like if they had never met Mark.
‘Bad. Much worse, ‘she said, not knowing how to express her sentiment in my language.
She did not have to. I could see her joy and gratitude as she delighted in the pair of guys posing with silly faces over their serious button downs. The sun beamed down like a spot light on them both, and I understood a little bit of what this had meant to her. Mark had provided some ease of mind, comfort in knowing there would be someone else there to care about her child. For that moment we didn’t t need Estuardo to step in and translate to explain how much Mark meant to their family. There would be no words powerful enough.”